The wave of “Me Too” accountability washing over America is a good thing. It’s good for women who have been sexually assaulted, harassed, and victimized. It’s good for society. And it’s good for our kids. Bringing men who hurt women to justice—especially those who abuse their power—sends an important message that these men will be held accountable for their offensive or predatory behavior, that they’re generally responsible for their actions, and that the consequences of their violations will be significant.
While there’s reason for optimism, this is not the first time we’ve been hopeful that the days of turning a blind eye, blaming the victim, or sweeping things under the rug were coming to an end. Time and again, we’ve seen attempts to curb social ills like gun violence or the opioid crisis crash and burn or simply fade away.
So what can we learn from the past to ensure the advances being made in our nation today will have a lasting impact? Here are six suggestions rooted in the principles of Courageous Living that will help you bring about this kind of change:
1. Continue Giving Voice to Your Pain
Venting and bravely giving voice to your pain, shame, humiliation, and outrage is a powerful part of the healing process. Holding an abuser accountable is an act of courage that sets in motion the possibility of justice, responsibility-taking, and even redemption. Telling your story is the first step in transforming that narrative, creating consequences, and changing a culture that sanctions inappropriate behavior.
2. Define a Good Outcome or Consequence
Rather than setting things in motion with little or no idea of what you think is a desired, deserved or appropriate outcome, take a moment to ask: What’s a good outcome here? What’s a suitable consequence? Is it an apology or compensation you’re seeking? Is it retribution or punishment? Would you like to see the offender in jail, in therapy or fired from a job? Ask yourself how to balance what you need with what you believe would best serve the interests of society and justice.
3. Cut Out the Man-Shaming
The shaming of men (or any other group or individual) is neither a constructive nor a long-term solution. Calling out and embarrassing someone, Maury Povich-style, may offer a short-term satisfaction but it does little to change behavior, just as telling men that they’re “bad” does little to protect women. In many cases, the rhetoric only sends some abusive men farther down the rabbit hole, causing them to actually become sicker and more secretive
4. Help Educate about Why Some Men Become Sexually Abusive and/or Act Out Sexually
Broad-based education will help the general public understand why some men feel the need to pull down their pants or pleasure themselves in front of women, think it’s cool to talk about grabbing “p—y,” ignore the word “No!” or hurt a woman or a girl. Educating the public about the underlying reasons for sex abuse, including those who desperately need help, will cut to the psycho-social core of this problem and begin to change the tide by helping abusive men identify their problem.
By seizing every opportunity to spread information and knowledge about sexual abuse, in conversation, on social media and any other appropriate venue, you’ll help bring this issue into the light.
5. Stop Sanctioning the Objectification of Women
Our sexuality is part of who we are, and this natural—and healthy! Drive causes us to admire and desire. But what’s unacceptable is regarding women as sex objects, or sanctioning a culture of abuse in which “basic training” for boys and men leads them to view girls and women as a collection of body parts to be assessed, judged, possessed or acquired.
Whenever you see this happening—whether it’s catcalling on the street or a demeaning beauty contest on TV—call it out. Make your opinion known that it’s no longer okay to objectify women in any way or for any reason.
6. Create Further Measures of Accountability
The reports of sexual harassment and abuse these past few weeks are historic. Given the unprecedented nature of these revelations, we need to begin creating new measures and standards of accountability. It’s crucial that we, as a society, have reliable mechanisms for determining whether an accused individual is guilty or innocent. This begins on a personal level by asking ourselves whether those being accused are denying they did anything wrong, or are they taking responsibility and apologizing?
From jail time to lawsuits, lost jobs, financial settlements, divorce, and public disgrace, different offenses call for different punishments. As a part of this society, it’s incumbent upon each of us to contemplate what we think are appropriate and proportionate consequences for different offenses, so we don’t have a one-size-fits-all response.
Each generation faces great challenges—and even greater opportunities to evolve into the better, smarter, more ethical, courageous, and compassionate versions of themselves. Our generation has a once-in-a-generation opportunity at this very moment. Will we silently sanction abuse and impropriety (with little or no consequences), or get to the root cause of the problem and cure the sickness? This is on us. So let’s leave a legacy of having met this challenge head-on so that we can give our daughters and granddaughters, as well as our sons and grandsons, a kinder, more just world.
Ken Druck is an organizational coach/consultant, speaker, and specialist in traumatic loss who lives and practices in Del Mar, California. He is also the Author of The Secrets Men Keep, The Real Rules of Life, and Courageous Aging. Find him at www.kendruck.com and www.facebook.com/kendruck.